Meet Greg and Beth Myers, owners of Garment Care Pros at Southside Cleaners. Their historic sign is a beacon of Lakeland life, an unmistakable marker of our city. The sign, a brainchild of Greg’s late mother, has shared clever humor with the community since 1962.
1. How long have you been living in Lakeland?
Greg: My family moved here in 1954, her family was here a little bit earlier. I was four years old and we came from Ohio. My dad bought the laundry down on Lake Mirror, which was then Lakeland Steam Laundry, and then in ’62 my parents bought this place.
2. When did you meet?
Beth: We started dating when we were fifteen. He rode his bike to my house, and I got my driver’s license first.
3. How long has your family owned the drycleaners?
G: Well, I’m actually a fourth generation. My grandfather and my great-grandfather were both in commercial laundry. My dad did both commercial laundry and dry cleaning. We actually owned Polly Prims down on Lake Mirror where the Lakeland Brewing Company is now, until almost 2000. My family bought this place in ‘62.
4. Where do you get your inspiration for the signs?
B: The signs are always original. I know that my-mother-in-law would travel and always be looking at signs in newspapers, in books for ideas. She would listen to the radio a lot in addition to watching TV for her inspiration. I’ve actually seen posts of signs that she did ten or fifteen years ago. They always come back around. I read constantly. And when we travel I’m always looking for things and sometimes I may see them on another marquee. People send me ideas, but most of the time I try to change the wording. We often have customers that come in with ideas, but we try really hard not to offend people.
5. What are people’s reactions to your signs?
B: They’ve been in The Ledger so many times. The sign’s been here years and years and years. We get very positive feedback.
G: I’ve had customers for years, and you ask them where they get their laundry done they just say “the place with the sign.”
6. Do people ever come in because of the sign? Does it generate business?
G: I don’t think so, I really don’t. We have a good product and we’re relationship-based. Even though we’re not real big, people come back because of the relationships. And that was really my dad’s intent when they first put the sign up, the marquee was to put up specials and sell stuff. That lasted about six months.
7. Was there ever a controversial sign? Has anyone complained about them?
B: Yes. They don’t usually come in, but they do call us and send us messages on Facebook. I remember one last year that wrote a really nasty note that they stuck in the door.
G: It’s always the most innocuous signs that offend somebody.
8. Do you think your sign is a landmark?
B: I’d say so. The Methodist Conference is always here in Lakeland, and they use our sign to help people get to the college. They say, “If you’re coming down Florida Avenue, you’ll see Southside Cleaners with the big marquee there. Turn left and you’ll hit the college.”
9. What is the goal of the sign?
G: We’ve always just tried to make people laugh. Not to preach to them or give them a lesson or something like that.
10. How often do you change the signs?
B: We change the sign every week, unless it’s terrible weather.
11. How many different sayings have there been over the years?
G: We have had over 4,000 that my mother kept over the years, from the sixties on.
12. What is your favorite thing to do in Lakeland?
B: Eat! We like to cook and we like to eat, and there are so many new restaurants. And of course, the Farmers Market and things like that.
G: It’s really interesting because I grew up over here and one of my neighbors was a lawyer that would go to the farmers market. There was a downtown market and I remember I’d get up early on Saturday and he’d pick me up to drive down there and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. That went away for decades, and now it’s back. That was something I’d look forward to as a little kid that just disappeared.
13. How have you seen the city change?
B: It’s grown so much. For both of us, our first houses were in orange groves. Lakeland had one Publix!
G: South Florida was a two-lane street.
B: It’s hard to believe that in the 60’s Lakeland was bigger than Orlando, that was back before Disney.
14. Favorite word or phrase?
G: Dryclean when you care?
15. Last song you listened to?
B: I remember changing the station! It was Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”…I can’t stand that song!
G: I was listening to Eric Clapton earlier today, “Come On In My Kitchen.”
16. Most influential person?
G: I’ve got to say Bill Mutz.
B: People from church.
17. Best TV series of all time?
G: When our kids were growing up, it was the “Muppets” every week. It was aimed at kids, but there was a lot of adult humor.
B: I would rather see a children’s movie than any adult movie.
18. Favorite pizza topping?
G: Well, fresh mozzarella.
19. Superman or Batman?
B & G: Batman.
B: I don’t want to live in a bat cave.
20. And Most Importantly…why Did You Choose Lakeland?
B: I like the community feeling.
G: With all the people that have come and stayed, it’s a special place.